Alignment (role-playing games)

In some role-playing games, alignment is a categorisation of the moral and ethical perspective of the player characters, non-player characters, monsters, and societies in the game. Not all role-playing games have such a system, and some narrativist role-players consider such a restriction on their characters' outlook on life to be overly constraining. However, some regard a concept of alignment to be essential to role-playing, since they regard role-playing as an exploration of the themes of good and evil. [1][ page needed] A basic distinction can be made between alignment typologies, based on one or more sets of systematic moral categories, and mechanics that either assign characters a degree of adherence to a single ethical characteristics or allow players to incorporate a wide range of motivations and personality characteristics into gameplay through various game mechanics.

Alignment typologies

Dungeons & Dragons

The original Dungeons & Dragons game created a three alignment system of law, neutrality and chaos. In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, this became a two-dimensional grid, one axis of which measures a "moral" continuum between good and evil, and the other "ethical" between law and chaos, with a middle ground of "neutrality" on both axes for those who are indifferent, committed to balance, or lacking the capacity to judge. This system was retained more or less unchanged through the 2nd and 3rd editions of the game. [2] By combining the two axes, any given character has one of 9 possible alignments:

Lawful good Neutral good Chaotic good
Lawful neutral Neutral Chaotic neutral
Lawful evil Neutral evil Chaotic evil

Neutral in this scheme can be one of two versions: Neutral, those who have no interest in (or no ability to care about) the choice; or "True Neutral", meaning those who not only actively remain neutral but believe it is necessary to enforce the balance of the world on others, and would act in any required fashion to bring about that balance.

In the 4th edition of the game, the alignment system was simplified, reducing the number of alignments to five. [3] The 5th edition of D&D returned to the previous two-axis system.

Warhammer FRP

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay originally used a linear five placing system: Law - Good - Neutral - Evil - Chaos. In changes of alignment (for whatever reason) a character moved one place along to the next position - so for example a neutral character could move to good or evil but not to chaotic.

In practice the system was used to regulate reactions between characters of different alignments.

In the newer edition, the concept of alignment (as well as, apparently, the presence of 'Law' as the antithesis of Chaos) has been discarded, with the emphasis more on the personalities and unique natures of characters, rather than a linear alignment system.


Palladium uses a system where alignments are described in detailed terms with alignments describing how a character acts in a certain situation; whether they will lie, how much force they will use against innocents, how they view the law, and so on. The alignments are organized into three broad categories: Good, Selfish, and Evil. The seven core alignments are Principled (Good), Scrupulous (Good), Unprincipled (Selfish), Anarchist (Selfish), Aberrant (Evil), Miscreant (Evil), and Diabolic (Evil). An eighth alignment, Taoist, was introduced in Mystic China, but has not seen wide use.

Each category contains answers to a set of questions on moral behaviors. For example, given the question "Would you keep a wallet full of cash you found?", most selfish or evil alignments would keep it, while most good alignments would seek to return the wallet to its owner. The categories are not organized into a pattern like Dungeons & Dragons. The system specifically does not include any sort of "neutral" alignment on the grounds that a neutral point of view is antithetical to the sort of active role heroes and villains should play in a story.

Star Wars

The alignments of the Wizards of the Coast Star Wars Roleplaying Game are limited to Light Side and Dark Side, though there are variations within these.

In the older West End Games game, behavior is controlled with Force points which indicate one use of it per point. When using The Force for evil deeds will give the character a Dark Side point which can accumulate and put the character at risk of being turned to the Dark Side and player loses control of it. By contrast, self-serving deeds with the force simply permanently costs the player the point while heroic deeds allow the player to regain the point. In addition, using the Force for a heroic deed at a dramatically appropriate moment, such as Luke Skywalker firing his proton torpedoes in the Death Star's exhaust port in the Battle of Yavin, will allow the player to earn an extra force point.

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